OP-EDS

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January 14, 2011

A wake-up call

We should seize the opportunity to reconsider the direction of our country and politics

This new year and quarter have brought with them several notable events that I have personally been at odds to reconcile. The first is, of course, the tragic, politically motivated shooting in Tucson, Arizona. The second, on a much lighter note, is the annual Kuviasungnerk/Kangeiko festival here at the U of C.

It may seem odd to include these diametrically opposed happenings in the same breath—but doesn’t each of them provide opportunity for collective introspection? Is each not a frigid wake-up call that could all too easily be ignored?

I should perhaps preface this with a brief description of Kuvia. It is an annual, weeklong winter celebration at the U of C. However, it is nothing like one would normally picture a celebration. It consists of calisthenics and workshops held in the Henry Crown Field House at 6:00 a.m. for one week in January. It is capped off on Friday with the entire group performing sun salutations (a yoga routine) on the shore of Lake Michigan until the sun rises.

I can’t say what motivated me to participate in Kuvia this year. Perhaps it was part of a cliché “new year, new me” inspiration; perhaps it was part of the UChicago masochism; perhaps it was entirely arbitrary. The point is that chance (or providence) often thrusts opportunity upon us. We are only asked to recognize its presence and act accordingly.

To look upon the shootings in Tucson as merely an “opportunity” or an impetus of some sort is, of course, woefully inadequate. We must first acknowledge it as a tragedy—not only a national tragedy, but also for many, a personal tragedy that is all too deep.

So what follows mourning? Justice? Jared Lee Loughner is in custody, but we all know he is not the sole culprit. Yes, he is responsible—he pulled the trigger—but our nation’s hostile political environment helped load his gun.

We have all heard the outrage against pundits; we have heard the pundits blame each other, and some have even humbly acknowledged their parts. We all know that we must soothe the “vitriolic rhetoric” that has driven this country to the edge of political sanity and safety. But just as I know more than one person who ignored his alarm at 5:30 this morning for Kuvia, so too do I know that our nation can all too easily snooze through this wake-up call.

Kuvia, by forcing us to drastically alter our schedules, by throwing us in a slightly uncomfortable setting and slowing down our mornings, has undoubtedly caused at least a moment of introspection in all who attend.

This is the spirit we must apply to the tragedy in Tucson. If 600 undergraduates can trudge through the snow before sunrise to take one long, collective breath, we as a nation can certainly suffer some self-examination.

Federico García Lorca speaks in a famous poem of “el camino del alba,” or “the road of dawn.” For him, what lay at the end of this road is somewhat ambiguous and beyond control. But if I’ve learned one thing from Kuvia in light of this recent tragedy, it’s that the dawn mustn’t always come as merely a matter of habit. It certainly takes struggle—you may have to wake up at 5:30 in the morning and do yoga in the snow—but if enough of us do it together, we can make our own dawn. The sun will rise, not out of duty or obligation, but out of grace, as if to an old friend.

So as you begin your new quarter, your new year, your new relationship, or if you are still in the process of ending the old ones, take solace in the fact that the road of dawn ends not in desperate obscurity: It begins and ends where we will it.

If you are reading this column on the day it was printed, the last day of Kuvia, look out towards the sun. If you can see it, know it is no ordinary sun—know what happened on the lakeshore this morning and in Tucson last week and reflect. If, as often happens in a Chicago winter, it is obscured by clouds, then do not lose faith—simply join us next time so that it might shine a little brighter and overcome the shadows of doubt, ignorance, and hatred that are all too common on our collective horizon.

Colin Bradley is a first-year in the College.

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